The Big 'Doc Fix' Flop

There are times when politics approaches the sublime level of art, where the sheer audaciousness and breathtaking arrogance of the players, along with the elegance of their schemes, achieves the same effect that one gets while gazing on the Pietà or watching Pulp Fiction. The shortening of breath, the quickening of the heartbeat -- responses to the joy in recognizing the awesome majesty in the clever ways the greatest politicians can separate the taxpayer from his hard earned coin or simply pull the wool over his eyes while he is being fleeced.

Is this a great country, or what?

That's the feeling I got while observing Harry Reid and the Democrats as they attempted the most brazen and shameless legislative switcheroo in quite some time.

Yes, it's the "doc fix" or, more prosaically, the "big ugly bribe" that the American Medical Association eagerly grasped with both gloved hands and sold their principles for a little more cash when treating Medicare patients.

The story, as it broke in The Hill, is that a secret meeting took place last week between Reid, Max Baucus, Chris Dodd, a couple of White House aides (including Rahm Emanuel), and representatives of the AMA and other doctors groups. At the meeting, the majority leader offered to restore cuts in Medicare payments to doctors that were mandated by a 1997 law that was supposed to reform Medicare. Never mind that Medicare is going to go broke and that those cuts were designed to help forestall that unhappy happenstance.

Problem: Those cuts were already figured in to the health care reform bills moving their way through Congress with the lightening speed of a three-toed sloth making its way to the ground for breakfast only to alight around dinner time. The cuts were counted as "savings" in order to fulfill the president's pledge not to add "one dime" to the deficit when passing health care reform.

No worries, says Fast Harry. And he proceeded to make an offer to the docs that they simply couldn't refuse.

We'll restore those cuts in a jiffy, says Harry. All you have to do is drop your longstanding opposition to national health care and we can do "the bus-i-ness." The doctors present must have thought they died and went to heaven. This kind of gift doesn't come along every day on Capitol Hill -- well, almost every day, but who's keeping track? Needless to say, they agreed to sell their souls for considerably more than thirty pieces of silver.

And to top off this fantastically outrageous and exquisitely artistic scheme, the Democrats would restore the doc cuts by bringing the bill to the floor as a "standalone." In other words, despite the fact that the Democratic reform bills had all included the Medicare cuts in their "savings," and thus remained true blue to the president's promise not to add to the deficit, Harry was going to make the president out a liar anyway by sending the bill to repeal the cuts to the floor while "forgetting" to bring along the rest of the health care reform measure.